John Colson: Hit and Run |

John Colson: Hit and Run

John Colson
Aspen Times Weekly

Sheesh, I feel like a dog whose favorite toy has suddenly been dumped in the trash.

I’m referring, of course, to George W. Bush, erstwhile president of this troubled land, now relegated to the dustbin of history and tagged with about the lowest national approval ratings ever known.

I’ve spent considerable energy during the last eight years doing my best to help this come to pass. And though I doubt my efforts were much noticed or contributed in any measurable sense to the outcome, I at least feel a little bit justified for my rancor and vindicated in my views.

So much for all that, I guess.

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But I can’t help but give a parting shot to the man whom the late, great Molly Ivins nicknamed “Shrub” and excoriated with far more venom and eloquence than I ever could muster.

Bush, imbued with an overabundance of hubris and afflicted with a lot of bad advice, tried to be a greater president than his father, George H.W. Bush, and failed so miserably that it cannot be seen as anything but pathetic ” unless, of course, one tends toward accusations of criminality.

A prime example, as was pointed out in the Jan. 26 New Yorker magazine by commentator Nicholas Lemann, Bush the Second said after being elected to a second term, “I earned … political capital and now I intend to spend it.” He then immediately embarked on a campaign to privatize Social Security, as idiotic a move as just about any I can recall, in which he hoped to hand over to private hucksters control of the vast pool of money accumulated over decades of payments by hard-working citizens.

As Lemann aptly queried, “Can you imagine how that would have turned out?” If our social safety net had been invested in the stock market, as Bush wanted, where would we be right now? Instead of simply watching Wall Street and the banking industry implode in a debacle of their own making, we would be witnessing the bankruptcy of a critical part of the nation’s bargain with its people.

Had the Bush-Cheney cabal had their way, the Social Security Trust Fund, much-maligned by the Bushites and their brethren, would now be wallowing in the same ruinous swamp as the banks that are toppling like so many tall trees with shallow roots in sandy soil.

Long treated as a kind of bank itself by Congress and the executive branch of government, the trust fund (actually, there is no such static thing, it’s really more of a conceptual slush fund) had been raided so often for cash that it already was anemic a decade or more ago.

That’s the basic reason that Social Security, as a program, has been so much in the news for the past decade or so. It was supposed to be a pool of money to provide financial security for the aged, but instead of saving it the government had been leveraging it and spending it and wasting it. The result is that the pool is all but dry, just as the Baby Boomer generation is poised to dive into it ” and when one dives into a dry pool, all one gets is a broken neck.

None of this, of course, is news. It has all been hashed out over and over again by worried observers of our national life, but the warnings have been regularly ignored as so much alarmist claptrap.

So, here we are. Our economy is in tatters, we’ve permitted our manufacturing base to fly to other shores, our national infrastructure is worn out and we’re tangled in expensive wars that seemingly have no end in sight.

All of which arguably could have been avoided, or at least prepared for, by Bush and Co. After all, he came into office with a healthy economy, a balanced budget showing surpluses for years ahead, and declining national debt.

Instead, he tried to give our public lands and the resources they hold to his corporate friends; he gutted our national science apparatus and our Constitution; he squandered the built-up store of international goodwill that might have been helpful in our moment of crisis; and he ignored our crumbling highways, transportation networks and other fundamentals that government is supposed to take care of; to name just a few hangovers from his years.

So, good riddance, I say, and I can only hope that we have sufficient national strength and resources to pull ourselves up out of the hole dug for us by Bush and his evil crew.

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